High pressure tactics, emotional appeals, and mail solicitations bordering on harassment are all part of the well thought out schemes by fake charities looking to fleece you out of your hard-earned cash.
But, with a little bit of research and familiarization of a non-profit you might be considering making a contribution to, your charitable contributions will get into the right hands where it will do the most good.
“The Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs is working to make sure our citizens do not get ripped off by unscrupulous scam artists looking to make a buck on the backs of legitimate charities,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who is chairman of Consumer Affairs for Ocean County. “Consumer Affairs staff is available to help answer questions on scams and whether a charity is legitimate.” Vicari noted that the Department of Consumer Affairs also has a checklist available that can help residents when they are deciding on a charity for a donation.
Checklist information includes the following things you should know:
Know your charity. Never give to a charity you know nothing about. Ask for literature and read it. Ask questions. Honest charities encourage you to do so.
Do not be misled by a familiar name. A dishonest charity will often have an impressive name or one that closely resembles the name of a respected, legitimate one.
Demand identification. Always ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity. Be suspicious of anyone who can’t respond satisfactorily. All solicitors must disclose whether they are a volunteer or a paid solicitor.
Beware of telephone solicitations. Refuse to commit yourself over the phone. Ask to be sent written information.
Do not be seduced by emotional appeals. The hard luck story is a favorite of fraudulent operators.
Do not succumb to pressure. No legitimate organization will expect you to contribute immediately, even if you have given in the past.
Check out mail solicitations. Mail solicitations often come with a trinket or other item which you are told you can keep if you contribute. Federal law however says that unless you asked for the item, you may keep it without making a contribution.
Ask about professional fundraisers. Ask the solicitor if a professional fund-raiser is being used and if so, what percentage of the total money will actually go to the charity which is asking for your help.
Vicari noted that Ocean County is home to the largest senior population in the state making it attractive to scam artists looking to prey on the elderly.
“We continually encourage our seniors and all of our residents to not give out their credit card numbers to strangers over the phone, keep track of their donations, ignore harassing letters and don’t give cash,” Vicari said. “We want all of our citizens to be protected under the consumer laws. We especially want our older residents to be aware that scam artists are out there and looking to take advantage of them. We are doing our best to protect them.”
He added seniors are often targeted for solicitations that appear to be attached to their benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare.
“These programs will not solicit donations from recipients,” Vicari said.
If you would like more information om whether a charity is registered, whether it uses a professional fund-raiser or has a history of complaints contact the Charities Hotline at 973-504-6215. Or, contact the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs at 732-929-2105.